What an unusual year for everyone! Here at the Highland Branch it was even unusual before the pandemic hit, starting with all three tutors local to the Inverness area having big life events occurring all at the same time in the autumn: Isbel Pendlebury flew off on her year’s travelling, Emma Wright moved a bit further south, and I had a baby! The branch did support a late-September sitting of the Scottish Harp Graded Exams, with Gillian Fleetwood examining. All 12 Highland pupils passed with flying colours!
We started off 2020 with our usual winter workshops. In January, Emma and myself led a workshop with a record-breaking 22 participants! We were so excited that our numbers had nearly doubled since last year’s workshops. Several of the attendees had just acquired their harps and hadn’t had much prior tuition, so wonderful they were keen to join in. In February, we welcomed guest tutors Heather Yule and Ingrid Henderson, with another large group of participants. Trying to cater for our beginners, we also had branch member Katie Ferguson take a small group of them so they didn’t feel lost in the big groups. We were just gearing up for our third workshop and spring concert when the lockdown hit and these had to be postponed.
The second edition of the Highland Branch’s Young Composer’s Competition was a great success this spring. We had 13 wonderful new compositions submitted by primary and secondary school pupils. Adjudicator Corrina Hewat gave some helpful and encouraging feedback to all the participants, and had the hard job of placing the winners! Congrats to these winners in Category 1 (primary age): 1st place: Grace Scott, 2nd place: Ava Williams, 3rd place (tie): Jemma Sinclair & Ciara MacDonald. Congrats also to the Category 2 winners (secondary-age): 1st place: Isy Maclean, 2nd place (tie): Isabella Sommerville & Eilidh Lamb, 3rd place (tie): Eilidh Thom and Mhairi MacKenzie. Although we weren’t able to hear these compositions as planned at our spring concert, we shared recordings or videos of most of them on our branch’s Facebook page, so now you could see them too!
There was very sad news this spring with the passing of branch committee member Susanne Lloyd Jones. Susanne was an enthusiastic workshop participant, performed wonderfully with her partner George at several branch events, and started teaching a community of harpists up in Thurso/Wick. She will be missed at any future events and we send our best wishes to George and her family.
Cheyenne Brown, convenor